For much of the year, Bert Weiss tackles the world of Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and ridiculous relationship problems.
But for a few days each year, the Q100 team flies to Walt Disney World with a dozen families with kids who have terminal or chronic illnesses. Most of these are families who can’t afford to take vacations, often sucked dry by medical bills and stress.
Bert’s Big Adventure, now in its ninth year, gives those families a break from reality. The parents don’t have to plan anything. They pay for nothing. They were picked up by limo to the Sheraton Gateway Hotel by the airport for a send-off party this morning. As I write this, they are already in Orlando, having been flown on a free donated Atlantic Southeast Airlines charter flight. They will get VIP treatment at Disney, meet the Disney characters, partake in the parades, the foods, the sights and the sounds over four days.
Bert and his wife Stacey spend the year seeking donations to make this happen. Stacey runs the foundation and organizes three reunion events per year as well for the now 98 families who have been part of Bert’s Big Adventure over the years. Amazingly, some of the kids from the early years are now in high school. “I always remember them from when they were on the trip,” Bert said. “Then they grow up four years later. Wow!”
“At least they’ve grown up!” he added, joking about his own relative stature.
The parents I interviewed were naturally grateful for the break. Samantha Moore, whose daughter Madison has a breathing problem that requires a tube in her throat all the time, was given a 32 GB memory card by a friend to capture the trip. “That’s like 9,999 pictures,” she said. “I’ve already taken 140!” And the family hadn’t even left Atlanta yet.
“I’m going to relax and enjoy the ride,” said Ryan Lloyd, of Loganville, whose six-year-old daughter Abigail can’t eat solid foods because of a white-cell problem.
Lisa Chambers, an x-ray technician of Villa Rica, has a 10-year-old son Kyle whose entire right side of his face was missing an ear and functionality. He’s had multiple surgeries to repair his face. Bert surprised Kyle by having his Falcons hero Roddy White show up and meet him. He’ll also get to go to a Falcons game and go on the field. “Will I get to sit on the bench?” he asked. “I don’t think so,” his mom said, with a laugh.
Here are some photos from the event: